Lip stains seem to magically amend all of lipstick’s most common complaints — the dryness, the heaviness, the cracks and feathers and need to reapply every time you eat, drink, speak, or breathe. Since the pigment literally bleeds into your lips, rather than sits on top of them, the best lip stains are smudge-proof, ridiculously long lasting, and neither sticky nor greasy. Lip stains come in many forms, though, so you'll have lots to think about as you peruse these options.
Although their claim to fame is the popsicle lips thing, not all stains are quite so sheer or watery. Some have matte or velvet finishes, others have a balm-like consistency, and still others feel more like a gel or gloss. But they’re all layerable, no matter their formulation, and they’ll fade to an even, impermeable wash of color that you’ll probably be buried in. (Kidding, but you’ll probably need an oil cleanser to remove it.)
Scroll on to shop five of the best lip stains out there, which hail from both Korean and American brands. Pro tip: Try tapping them onto your cheeks to get even more wear out of them.
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1. The Cult Favorite
If you’re staying true to the popsicle effect, you’ll need Etude House's Dear Darling Water Tint to do it. This cult-classic Korean lip stain is water-based, so the pigment bleeds to a gradient-like finish when you dab it onto the center of your lips. Loyalists say it’s much longer-lasting and less drying than other water-based tints, thanks to the addition of moisturizing pomegranate and grapefruit extracts. The brand also makes a gel-based version for even more longevity, intense color payoff, and lots more shades to choose from — but this is the classic. It works nicely on cheeks, too.
- Available shades: 3
2. Best Balm
Make no mistake: This Revlon Balm Stain is not a tinted lip balm. It’s a bonafide lip stain — ultra pigmented, sticks around after a full meal (plus cocktails, dessert, and coffee) — but it’s formulated with nourishing ingredients like shea butter, mango butter, and coconut butter, so it feels comfortable and moisturizing. Reviewers also love the chubby, crayon-inspired point, which feels deliciously smooth and creamy, as well as the handy retractable packaging.
- Available shades: 8
3. Best Matte
Here’s another hybrid-esque lip stain, this time via the blissful union between a stain and a matte liquid lipstick. It boasts the watery consistency and weightless feel of the former, the full coverage and opaque finish of the latter, and the bulletproof lasting power of both. After several hours (and, yes, several meals), the opacity wears down to a traditional stain-like wash, but it never clumps, flakes, or cracks. The 34-shade range is really generous, too.
- Available shades: 34
4. Best Velvet Finish
For an even more intense effect, pick up this Peripera lip tint. This is another favorite among the K-beauty crowd, and the rare lip tint with a powdery finish, which gives it a blurred, airbrushed effect. Unlike most velvet-finish lipsticks, though, this won’t bleed or feather, and the shades remain just as bright, vivid, and pigmented when they wear down as they are upon first application. Bonus points for the cute squeeze-bottle packaging.
- Available shades: 12
5. Best Plumping Formula
Hyaluronic acid gives this Buxom lip stain some “plumping” action (just a nominal amount, so don’t expect to look like an Instagram filter), while vitamin E, jojoba esters, and sunflower seed wax impart a silky, emollient finish. Some reviewers say this is more “gloss” than “stain,” though the color sticks around for hours even after the shine wears off. You can achieve an ombre effect with it, too, which is tough to do with a gloss. My verdict? A solid stain.
- Available shades: 6